Thursday, January 8, 2009

No appeal for map provider

Jan 8, 2009

Virtual Map has already used up its recourse to an appeal, court rules
By Selina Lum
A LEGAL battle between Virtual Map (VM) and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) came to a close yesterday when Singapore's highest court decided that the online map provider had no right to further appeal against a lower court decision.

VM had already used up its recourse to an appeal when it went to the High Court last year to review a district court's decision stopping it from using maps created from SLA data on its website

The Court of Appeal effectively upheld the High Court's decision, that VM's maps had infringed on the SLA's copyright, and that the map provider had to stop reproducing the maps and had to destroy or deliver up all infringing material.

Under the law, litigants in civil suits worth less than $250,000 do not have automatic access to the Court of Appeal.

The site, which went offline in April last year, was sold to a Hong Kong-based firm. It was relaunched last August with new maps. Mr Firdhaus Akber, managing editor of the new company, Streetdirectory, told The Straits Times that VM had paid damages to the SLA for copyright infringement, but he declined to disclose the amount.

The SLA sued it in 2007 for using maps based on the statutory board's data even though it no longer had the licence to do so. VM contended that its maps were independently created.

But the district judge found numerous 'fingerprints' of copying in VM's maps, including deliberate errors planted by the SLA. She held that VM had infringed on the SLA's copyright.

VM appealed to the High Court, which agreed with the district judge and dismissed the appeal.

VM then went to the Court of Appeal.

The SLA, represented by Drew and Napier, applied to strike out the notice of appeal, arguing that VM had to get the court's permission for further recourse.

Last July, two issues were put before the Court of Appeal: whether permission was required for VM to appeal to the Court of Appeal; and if permission was needed, whether it should be granted.

The decision of the three-judge court: Yes, VM needed permission. No, permission would not be granted.

Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang said it should have been clear at the outset that permission was necessary, given that the suit started in the district court and the appeal was heard in the High Court.

In denying VM permission to appeal, the judge said the lower courts' decisions were well-reasoned and correct in law.

An SLA spokesman said: 'We are glad that the court has ruled in our favour and the SLA's copyrights in its maps are protected.'

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